Assorted links

In the tradition of Arab summits, let us discuss issues of mutual interest and reaffirm brotherly ties:

Shaaban Abdel Rahim has a new song on the Mubarak health rumors.

The Guardian profiles Alaa al-Aswany as the UK debut of the Yacoubian Building comes out.

Amr Khaled is a hit in America.

Stop the presses -- Middle East crap at democracy, says EIU!

More coverage of Nadia Abu al-Haj, the latest academic to be on the Zionist hit-list.

Potential US presidential candidate John Edwards, in a speech on his policy towards terrorism, calls for the establishment of a king of counter-terrorism and intelligence NATO. He calls it CITO. It's a cure acronym and a pretty good speech.

Jihad for Love -- a documentary on gay Muslims. I know its maker and like to think I had a role in persuading him not to foolishly go film on this subject in Saudi Arabia, otherwise he might not have survived to make the documentary. I haven't seen it, think the title is a bit cheesy (I declare jihad against using the word jihad), but wish him luck.

Israeli officials believe North Korea is selling nuclear materials to Syria. In other news, Israeli officials have proof that Bashar al-Assad and Hassan Nasrallah recently are small, cute puppies for lunch.

Russia unveils "the father of all bombs." Vladimir Putin entertains me to no end. Do read the wonderful special on the KGB networks the Economist did a couple of weeks ago. I wonder if the Russians are going to start selling this kind of technology in the Middle East. And by the way, if you're a resident of Ulyanovsk, conceive!

Naomi Klein on the privatization of Iraq, looting in Baghdad, private security firms and the exploitation of natural disasters. See also her Harpers article on "disaster capitalism," from her new book, the the short film she made to promote it (which no matter what you think of her has cool graphics.) I like some of what Klein writes, but sometimes feel she does not completely master her topics and borrows from academic and other thinkers without attribution. But she's an excellent vulgarizer, in the best sense of the word.

Also a good occasion to re-read this MERIP piece on the war economy of Iraq.

Joel Beinin writes a letter from al-Tuwani, near Hebron.

I still can't quite get over the fact that people say things like "Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage" and get away with it. Let's not forget about the racist campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy in New York.

Ian Buruma on Norman Podhoretz, that sick fuck.

I am not sure whom has the most forked tongue: Christopher Hitchens or Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan, as Hitchens says, skirts too many issues in trying to make Islamism an acceptable idea (he has at least the merit of dragging it away from the populist muck.) But Hitchens, with his own jihad on Islamism (or should I say Islamo-fascism), wallows in double-entredres, as his own colleagues admit.

POMED has an interview with Sihem Bensedrine, arguably Tunisia's most important human rights activists. It's worth reading in contrast to this piece by Jill Caroll about attempts by MEPI to develop independent journalism in Tunisia, which has been put on hold. I wish Jill had talked a little bit more about the journalistic context in Tunisia, one of the most repressive countries in the region in terms of press (and internet) freedom.

Palestinian micro-breweries. It almost brings tears to my eyes as we enter the dry season (in Morocco, the relatively new Casablanca beer is great!). Ramadan Karim, all. And a happy new year to our dear cousins.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.